Hope Christian pastor leaving

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Darrell Jones

Pastor Darrell Jones started Hope Christian Church in 1993, and after 30 years of growth, community outreach and venue changes, he’s finally stepping away.

Hope’s story begins in Chicago, where Jones and his wife, Ellen were praying on starting a church in the late 1980s. They were approached about developing one in early ‘93 and had it going in Southern Illinois later that year.

“Some pastors asked us if we would move down from Chicago to start the church in a little place called Columbia, Illinois,” Jones said. “We found that humorous because we’d prayed about that years before. We actually, after a few phone calls, took the challenge to come and get it off the ground.”

The church moved around a number of times before ending up in its current home. Jones started in Turner Hall before moving to Dashner Funeral Home. They then met at Zahnow Elementary in Waterloo while the current building was being built.

They were originally told they’d need to pick either Waterloo or Columbia for the church’s location, but Jones said they “went against the odds” and picked land between the cities since they felt they were in “such a close-knit county.”

Jones said he believes they made the right decision given how both communities have come together in the church.

“Both cities have been very kind to us,” Jones said. “The community has been very kind.”

On top of Hope’s food pantry, the church has participated in various outreach projects over the years. Most notable among these is Hope’s work in Washington Park.

“We were really connected to Washington Park, the outreach down there,” Jones said. “Loving the people, teaching the people, feeding, and now they’re actually building houses down there, which is awesome.”

The church has also come to be known for its summer Jesus And Me program. Jones said he’s often been called the “JAM” pastor by kids in the community.

“We did Vacation Bible School for years and decided to go all out and to make an effort to make it fun, and that’s how JAM began,” Jones said. “It’s been a good ride too, JAM has been.”

Reflecting on some of his fond memories of the church, Jones said being at Hope for so long has been impactful on its own, especially when he thinks about how he’s seen the congregation members grow and change.

“We have been to the hospital when the babies were born, and we’ve been marrying them,” Jones said. “Being here for 29 years, that whole ‘multiple generation’ has been really cool to see. The moms, the dads and now the young babies having babies is pretty cool.”

On leaving and finding his replacement, Jones said it was time to bring in someone younger. He’s known incoming pastor Shane Adkisson for years and feels “very comfortable that he wouldn’t harm our congregation and that he would teach the word of God.”

Adkisson said Jones reached out to him about taking the position in May 2021. He’s grown to love Hope over the years, and has especially enjoyed their outreach through JAM and the food pantry.

Askisson said he and his wife are honored to step into the position of people who have accomplished so much in the community.

“I think that it’s pretty incredible when you look at 30 years of ministry,” Adkisson said. “I was briefly speaking with someone who talked about how I have such huge shoes to fill, and, man, the reality is there’s no way I could ever fill those shoes.”

Jones said he wants Adkisson to “bring his vision from his own heart” and hopes the church will succeed beyond what he’s managed to accomplish.

“Hope has been — and probably to a fault — my baby, and I love my identity at Hope,” Jones said. “I wanted to make sure when we were leaving, number one, that hope was in a healthy position and growing. Hope is both those things, it’s healthy and growing. So it’s a good time to be going out. But I also wanted to make sure that Hope stayed healthy without me.”

Jones emphasized that he is not yet retiring and is eager for “about 20 more years of a challenge” after he takes a brief vacation this summer.

“I would love something probably more project driven,” Jones said. “Working with some emergency disaster sorta like Franklin Graham has Samaritan’s Purse where they go overseas and do emergencies, like they’re in Ukraine right now. I would love something in that. They go and they help people during tornadoes. Something like that. I would love that.” 

A farewell party is set for this Sunday at the church from noon to 4 p.m. All are welcome to attend.

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